‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Recap: What The Frack, Are The Judges In-Zhane?
The show seems to be saving Aiden just to see her fail, and it's hard to watch.
As if this week hasn’t been hard enough, the RuPaul’s Drag Race judges panel sent the wrong queen to the bottom two — and if you thought the show’s fan-base was already slightly out of control, imagine the collective gay meltdown two weeks into social distancing.
To those fuming, I’d say take a walk, but maybe you should just crack out the amyl and blast through Blackout.
Let’s just get straight into it: Aiden Zhane wasn’t in the bottom two after this week’s ball ball purely for plot. As per the reaction in the back, the queens were astounded she was safe. Jaida literally mouthed “what the fuck”.
It’s been really unpleasant watching the queens trash-talk Aiden (particularly Brita and Sherry during last week’s improv challenge), but the harsh reality is that the queens are just feeding into what the producers want. While napping in the werkroom this episode sure didn’t help her case, it seems like Aiden has more or less been cast with this ‘undeserving’ controversy in mind.
Straight from her entrance, we learn she doesn’t perform — essentially a death knell on the show that becomes your entire storyline (Miss Fame, Scaredy Kat, Soju).
And while Aiden’s been doing fine in the competition, there is a lacking next-level element or polish to her performances.
Take her corset look this week: when she repeatedly says she couldn’t have done much more to it, it shows a lack of imagination, as she expects the whistle alone will offer cohesion. What about a yellow card hidden in the bra? An elaborate headpiece? Pom-pom gloves?
Then there’s what Leslie Jones on Untucked called her “sourness” throughout the show, which she tries to make work for her gothy character — even as a bee.
I really feel for Aiden. Her presence on the show is a bit uncomfortable to watch: she’s clearly frustrated with herself and the situation, and so has become shy and self-defensive at once.
Even in the background of the past two episodes, Aiden rarely smiles or seems to be having fun, probably because she’s not. I can’t blame her: it’s pretty awful to feel like you’re doomed to fail. Yet the show kept her in, espousing fairly empty lines about her originality as an excuse.
Rock might’ve offered more looks and werkroom foolery in the future, but plot-wise, she’d coughed up quite a lot already. When you’ve covered racism, mommy issues, meth, self-confidence issues and make-up comparisons in three episodes, the show might’ve squeezed you dry.
Rock was lovely to watch (and honestly, I didn’t hate her designed look), but like I said last week, she was clearly a little too emotionally raw to compete.
Online, she’s shared she took months off drag after coming home from S12, utterly crushed by leaving so soon. Hopefully, the time off let Rock heal some wounds, because she’s such a naturally charismatic, entertaining performer.
That lip-sync was a rough way to leave, too: not only did her outfit seriously impede her early on, but Rock was so evidently shaken by it that her performance reeked of desperation. Meanwhile, Brita stood in front of her, once again tearing someone down instead of proving her own worth.All this chatter of her talent and of being a New York legend is wearing pretty thin, as Brita so far hasn’t backed up her bravado. She did drop her filter, after all — and Leslie Jones did not pick it up, absolutely trash talking her with nothing held back in her viewing commentary.
In this Brita vs. Aiden feud, there are really no winners. Brita comes off a bully, and Aiden is thrown under the bus by being prematurely cast. Sure, the show has to create plots and narratives, but there’s something a little too cruel about this set-up. Hopefully they don’t drag it out.
‘Ball Ball’ Is The Queer Version Of ‘Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo’
Before the Ball Ball, the queens dress up as bees and dance to a ‘honey’ edit of RuPaul’s ‘Freaky Money’ to promote awareness of conservation efforts to save the bees.
In a way, supporting the collective spirit of a bee-hive is a powerful, revolutionary statement against the individual-above-all capitalist rhetoric that would see someone, for example, make their personal profit off selling self-love while also engaging in a little bit of side-hustle fracking. Glad RuPaul is doing her bit to save the environment.
Jaida once again breakdances, performing a move I hadn’t seen since my ‘special dance’ class in primary school that saw me leave math lessons to go dance. Good to see it still exists. Rock screams about bees and Aiden looks like she’s about to cry, but Gigi wins. To quote RuPaul each Snatch Game, “who cares!”.
We quickly move on to this week’s main challenge: the Ball Ball, a sports-themed three-runway challenge that asks the queens to design one look using various balls provided. Carson Kressley must be kicking himself at how many ball puns he missed out on this episode. Gagged, once again!
The queens have bought two of the looks from home, but the design look is ‘Balls To The Wall’, which means very little. In the werkroom, Sherry plays the Ru role and goes around asking the queens about their challenge ideas for the second week: it’s one of the few times this episode she features, as they couldn’t edit around it.
It’s in moments like this you see how the show engineers plot lines, presenting this frontrunner as a compassionate, caring figure when clearly she’s just been asked to wander through the room. Still, the show’s remarkably cohesive considering they’ve essentially cut out a major voice (here’s side-by-side proof of the editing, by the way).
We spend a little more time with Jan this episode given the sports theme, but the show still seems to be side-stepping her. And we didn’t know it was possible to sleep on Crystal, either: her looks this week were wonderful, and it was surprising to not see her in the top.Instead, we spend a lot of time with Nicky, who is struggling to get out of the ‘break out of your shell’ storyline.
Post last week’s lipsync was the time to do it, and with inevitable comparisons to Gigi as the ‘other’ fashion queen, she might not stick around for too much longer.
Jackie also isn’t getting much screentime, which is a shame. It’s potentially just a very crowded episode, with 36 looks to get through — after all, Widow has pretty much faded into the background since winning the premiere, and I doubt she’s leaving any time soon.
Leslie Jones’ Drag Race… We Would Like To See It
Leslie Jones is a huge Drag Race superfan, and it shows. If you haven’t, this week’s Untucked is essential purely for her appearance.
Back-stage, she challenges Aiden on her negative air and Nicky’s lack of wacky, being stern but fair on all. One line to Aiden should be a wake-up call (‘I’m a 52-year-old black woman from Compton. You think I’m supposed to be Leslie Jones?”), but she fails to really take it on-board. She then signs Widow’s ugly shoes.
There are some really sublime looks this runway, but it’s also pretty overwhelming. Where last year I went through all 33, we all simply have better things to do, such as leave our living rooms and go to the kitchen, or leave the kitchen and go to the bathroom.
Once again, the queens educate us on social distancing, each look doubling as a PSA on how to stay home without losing your mind.
Gigi wins this week’s challenge, meaning four weeks in, the top two of the first two episodes each have a win: her, Widow, Sherry and Jaida. There’s a pretty good chance that’ll be our top four, too.
While I’ve said my piece (do NOT see me with them hands, Tatianna!) about Aiden, I don’t necessarily think she would’ve gone home against Rock or Brita. The ‘S&M’ lip-sync was pretty lackluster. We much prefer this one:
day 6 of quarantine pic.twitter.com/BsQUNEJ2Ty
— maddie (@uhquaria) March 19, 2020
For all its frustrations and flaws, Drag Race is an absolute beacon of light right now. I hope you all look after yourself, stay the fuck home and remember, don’t frack it up.
RuPaul’s Drag Race streams on Stan, with new episodes available each 2pm AEDT.
Jared Richards is Junkee’s Night Editor, and freelances from Berlin. He’s really into tweeting right now!